Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hawaii 2012 - My holiday + Vanessa's race!

We were both really stoked that Vanessa qualified for Hawaii and our trip here has been everything we'd hoped for. The atmosphere has been buzzing and the area is beautiful. It's been cool learning about the Hawaiian culture and seeing the close kinship they have with Samoans, Tongans and their other Polynesian cousins.

I've been doing lots of training here and had 4 flats and one buckle already - I must have pissed off Madam Pele, the (in)famous Hawaiian god, or something. My last chance to get here next year as an athlete is in Ironman WA on December 9.

Anyway Ness has written her race report as below - enjoy!

The famous Kona Pier! T1 and T2 crammed in.
Thank you everyone who followed my race, it was really touching(though I did feel a little extra pressure) to have so many people look out for me on this day.  It was certainly helpful to know I had this support from a distance.

I qualified for Hawaii in Regensberg Germany.  For a large part of my training for Hawaii  I was approaching it  more just to make sure I completed the race, such is the mystique of the toughness of this race.  Then as the race came closer, I had been training well and probably the only Ironman I have done without some problem going into it. So I began to think I would actually like to do the race well too, particularly when my father & brother decided to come.  I also did not want to come last in my age group, as I thought the level would be so high.

The view from our verandah (Lanai) - right in front of the swim turn point!

We arrived a week before the race and checked into the Sea Village on Ali'i Drive. Ali'i (pronounced Ali-hi) is one long road along the coast from where the swim starts, and the first 16kms of the run are - 8kms out and back. Along this road is where most of the accommodation, restaurants and cafes are. 

Sea Village courtyard - the manager told us Greg Welch stayed here when he was the first non-American/Australian to win in 1994 and Greg and the Aussies partied so much here the cops were called! Cool place to stay!

 Along this road all week there are MANY athletes riding and running, it is really hard to resist leaving your own taper regime to join them, you tend to think you have not done enough.  My coach kept reeling back in.  Even my Dad had to go out and join them on a ride!

It was helpful to have the week to prepare myself, I did the swim course and found out that even the Hawaii waters are not warm enough for me!  I got mild hypothermia and had to be rescued from the coffee island boat!  This was a bit of a worry, I ended up getting the OK from the race officials to wear a neoprene swim cap, which my brother brought over for me (none for sale in Hawaii) and this helped just enough to get me through the swim.  The water is very nice, lots of fish, coral, turtles, and dolphins.

When out running & cycling training, there was  lots of nutrition companies setting up their aid stations around giving out samples of different race fuels, it was really cool.

I did a few swim sessions also in the local pool here. This is where I found a handful of pro’s doing their sets. I asked a guy why his wrist band was a different colour and he said it was a pro - Bevan told me later it was Marino Van Hoenecker who was third in this race, has won IM Austria about 5 times and holds the M-dot Ironman world record! He ended up coming off the bike 8 minutes ahead and led until 20kms on the run!  The pool had 2x 25m pools , about 20 lanes available to choose from, and was free to use!

The pool!

 Also the week before they had events on each day, like the parade of nations.  This is where the athletes paraded down the main street behind their countries flag.  Aust had the second most number of people after the US.

Go Aussie!

The following day was a fun run – the underpants run, which is a Hawaii ironman tradition. It started to show speedo wearing Germans that they looked a bit silly wearing them all around town. Now it's an excuse for fit athletes to show off their bodies!  Bevan and I participated in this, you had  to run only in underpants.  It was something fun and broke the seriousness in the air, it also gave you the realization that these athletes are just normal people, not machines.
Shake it!

Registering for the race was exciting, I was one of the first.  We received a back pack with some nice goodies (TYR goggles, granola being some of the better freebies).

I checked my bike & transition bags in on Friday the day before the race.  We had someone personally take us to our bike rack and talk us through the transition orientation.  They were very experienced, kind and helpful.  The bikes were all very tightly aligned together as there is not much room on the pier for the 1,800 bikes.

Welcome dinner was a pretty standard IM dinner, just with an Hawaii flavour.

 Dad and me at the Welcome Party.
I spent  the day before the race with my Dad, brother & Bevan, this took my mind off the day ahead.  The night before, nerves were kicking in, struggled to sleep.  

I woke up before the alarm at 330am.  Had a meal replacement drink and then a 10min run (coach Woody's orders), came back had brekky, then off to the swim start with our friend Gavin, his girlfriend Anna and Josh Rix who races pro.  After body marking I bumped into our friend from Tokyo Mika T, who is a journalist reporting on the race.  It was nice to see a familiar face, I gave her a nervous smile and a hug for good luck.  Gavin kindly  helped me pump up my tires (normally Bevan's job) and then waited.  I had another meal replacement drink and chocolate bar whilst waiting.

Early start

 Swim 3.8kms 1.27 (75/85 in Age Group)
Swim start I am far left.
At 6.30am, the pros went and it was time to get close to the start and ready for the swim.  It is a deep water start, so I got in last minute to avoid getting cold.  There were about 1800 people in the race, the start was wide enough to not be too squashed. Spectators were all lined up on the shore, and lots of paddle borders in front of us, that was a bit strange as we had to swim around them.  The race  began with a canon, but everyone left a few seconds earlier when the announcer shouted 'go, go, go!'. I was off and swam hard for the first bit then got into a steady rythym.  Unfortunately I probably only drafted 40% of the swim.  The water was a little choppy and on the way back we were swimming into a current, so not that easy for a weak swimmer like me and most of the swim times were a bit slower this year.  My goggles were knocked off once, but I recovered them quickly.  They actually have spare goggles at the turn around boat (2km) if needed!  I was very relieved and surprised that the swimmers were not that rough, I guess everyone was experienced. The buoys were close together so it was relatively easy to stay on course.  I finished the swim feeling pretty good, only slightly cold.  My swim time was slower than I wanted  though being non- wetsuit swim and tough conditions I was not surprised. 

Getting land legs.

Bike 5.53 (finished bike in 54/85)
It was totally carpeted from swim to bike.  I ran under showers to then collect my transition bag in which a lady was already holding up in front of me, I was guided to a seat in transition tent where the ladies gave me a quick transition, they were so efficient, I was impressed. I then ran to the bike and got going, there were lots of spectators cheering us on. 

First km of the bike - long way to go!

The bike is mostly an out and back on a long highway, with lava fields either side.  There are spectators at the beginning, ½ way out and at the turn around point but i between it was quite desolate.  So really not much support, and not too much interesting scenery around. I would describe the course as undulating hills.  There was a head wind out to the turn around point, making it really tough for someone small like me.  We had hoped for low winds and high temperatures, but we didn't get either on this day. I was looking forward to the turn around point to have some tail wind. I was very disappointed to find that the tail wind only lasted about 15km!  We were cheated! The slower swimmers got more head wind on the way home as it picked up through the day.  I had head wind most of the way back.  There was not too much cross wind. 

The Queen K - they gave us free helmets!

The nice thing about the out and back course is you get to see the pro’s riding back and see whats happening in the race.  Quite a few people had penalties for drafting, including the first 3 female pro’s!
I had another 2 meal replacement drinks in the first hour of the bike, so this really gave me fuel for a large part of the day, I then managed to fit in 5 muesli/chocolate bars and a honey sandwich on the rest of the bike.

Most of the bike was me playing catch up after a slow swim, there were no real pace lines in my part of the bike.  I got to the end of the bike feeling reasonable and relieved to get out of the wind, it's always a relief get off the bike after such a long way. 

Feet out of shoes, ready to go onto the run. Like the socks?!

RUN 42kms 3.32 finished in 27th/85 - 3rd Australian.

Ali'i Drive
I came into transition, the bike catcher grabbed my bike and I ran into transition tent where the ladies transformed me ready for the run faster than I could keep up with!  I sat for 2 minutes to recompose myself (coach's advice), had a red bull then began the run.  Coach Woody wanted me to do the first 16km easy along Ali'i Dr, then run hard when I reached the highway - the Queen K.  So that is what I did, it was hard in the first 16km to let people pass when I knew I could go faster, but I had to keep at the back of my mind that it is at the 20km part where these people are going to start blowing up.  

This seemed to be the case, as I picked up my pace on the Queen K and from then on a didn't get passed once.  I ran hard up the highway feeling pretty good looking forward to seeing what was in the famous 'Energy Lab'.  I kept passing people all the way and got to the energy lab with good time. No spectators were allowed in the energy lab, so it suddenly became very quiet, there was just the sound of runners a little eerie, but kind of peaceful.  It was longer than I thought, about 4 kms I think and we ran close to the water then parallel to the water then turned around and came back.  They had special needs in there, but I didn't have any.  The aid station in there had something I felt like eating as at this point I was not feeling like taking anything, so I was getting worried I may bonk if I want to keep running hard.  They had brown bread with peanut butter & jam on it, (American style)  not something I would usually have but it seemed to go down really well, I downed a few! 

Long way out to the Energy Lab and back.

Back onto the highway I kept a steady pace back to town, it felt like a long way but was motivating to keep passing people, again playing catch up still from my slow swim.  I got to 2km from end, still feeling good, so I started my sprint – and managed it all the way to the end. 

Justin took a video 3kms from the finish.

 The finishing chute was one of the best I have experienced, lots of support, grand, all lit up, and I just felt good physically and mentally.  I was relieved to get through the day with no problems and finish strongly!

I went straight to massage and had a few chocolate milks ( my favourite post race recovery fuel) then to see and give a big hug to Bevan, Dad & brother Justin.

Time to relax!

Overall the day went very fast for me, I actually think I enjoyed the race too.  I expected something more grueling.  We had a good night after the awards party to celebrate!

Gavin & Bevan acting the clown as usual.
 I am very relieved it is all over and I am now relaxing chilling out having coffees in Lava Java café (famous café over looking the water  where many triathletes hang – has a band and good food).  Bevan is taking  the opportunity to train hard.  We are on different training schedules now!

Lava Java!


I would like to say a quick thank you to everyone who supported me – all the Tokyo triathletes, Niseko friends, school friends, other friends and family.  A big thank you to my Dad and brother who came all the way to Hawaii to support me (amazing calming affect), also a big thank you to my coach Woody who gave me a great training program and a lot of support not just for this race but over the last 3 years and for getting me here.  I could not have done it without him. The last big thank you is too my amazing husband Bevan who has supported me, been my bike mechanic and put up with my variable moods after long training days. 



  1. What an incredible race Vanessa! You are one amazing lady!! Inspirational! You looked so strong right to the end.

    And to think you have qualified again!

    Huge congratulations :-)

    Jo xxx

  2. Your vacation is very interesting. Vacation and also at the same race. I think, you have talent. nice